Competition: UEFA European Championships
Fixture: Poland v Northern Ireland
Date: Sunday, June 12, 2016
Venue: Allianz Riviera, Nice
Kick off time: 17:00 hrs GMT
Poland will take on Northern Ireland as the two sides begin their campaigns at the European Championship finals. The teams have been placed in Group C in the group stage besides Germany and Ukraine.
Poland’s form: W-W-W-L-D
After having sealed qualification to the finals, Poland have played five friendly matches starting from November last year. They beat Czech Republic in November 3-1 with goals from Arkadiusz Milik, Tomasz Jodlowiec and Kamil Grosicki doing the trick on the occasion.
During the international break in March, Poland played a couple of friendlies and won both. The first was a 1-0 win over Serbia with former Borussia Dortmund wide-man Jakub Blaszczykowski sealing the contest with the solitary goal. The second was a 5-0 romp over Finland. Grosicki and Pawel Wszolek grabbed two goals each while Filip Starzynski also got on the score-sheet.
Performances have however tailed off a tad bit following the end of the club football season in Europe. They have not been able to win any of their friendly matches on the eve of the Euros. They were beaten 2-1 by Netherlands, who failed to qualify for the finals themselves in their first preparatory match before being held to a goalless draw by Lithuania in their final preparatory game.
Northern Ireland’s form: W-D-W-W-D
Northern Ireland are unbeaten in their last five friendly matches. The run started with a 1-0 home win over Latvia in November last year where Steven Davis’ goal decided the contest.
The side went up against Wales and Slovenia in the break for internationals in March. The side were on course to beat Wales through Craig Cathart’s goal on the hour mark but Simon Church found the back of the net for Wales in the final minute of the 90. They did go on to defeat Slovenia by the solitary goal yet again with Conor Washington getting on the score-sheet this time around.
They have come up against Belarus and Slovakia in their two preparatory matches on the eve of the tournament. They beat Belarus 3-0 as Kyle Lafferty and Washington found the back of the net in the first half. William Grigg tripled the lead late in the second half to give the team a comfortable victory.
The match against Slovakia ended goalless but it could have easily been a different story had Washington taken his chance. That being said, the team would have been happy to keep a clean sheet and go 12 matches unbeaten.
Key Players and Team News:
Poland: Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, who is incidentally attracting interest from Champions League winners Real Madrid, is the focal point of this Poland team. He is the crown jewel in this team which is known for their work rate.
Milik and Grosicki, the left winger, will have a crucial role to play as well as the team look to make it beyond the group stage. Sevilla midfielder Gregorz Krychowiak has been a superb performer in the La Liga with Sevilla. The defensive midfielder helped Seville win back-to-back Europa Leagues and has been on the radar of some big clubs in Europe.
Kamil Glik is a class act in the center of defense while right winger Blaszczykowski will be a threat as well. Poland also have a very good goal-keeper in the form of Lukasz Fabianksi, who has done really well at Swansea over the last two seasons. The side are likely to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Northern Ireland: Cathart and Lafferty were injured against Slovakia and had to go off the pitch but manager Michael O’Neil has confirmed that the players are fit for their campaign opener. Likewise, Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuly also sustained knocks as a result of Slovakia’s tough tackling approach.
The team normally line up with a flat back 4-4-2 with one midfielder in an advanced role behind two forwards. Southampton midfielder Davis will play in behind Lafferty and Washington – the two strikers.
Paddy McNair, the Manchester United youngster, will play in defensive midfield and will have Corry Evans and Stuart Dallas for company in the middle of the park. Chris Baird and Conor McLaughlin will feature in the full-back slots with Jonny Evans expected to start at center half. McAuly will have to beat off competition from Aaron Hughes as he bids to start ahead of the man who has made 100 appearances for Northern Ireland. Former Manchester United ‘keeper Roy Carroll will start in goal.
Poland have a fine player in Lewandowski and he can make a difference by himself. You can expect him to hit the back of the net when these two sides meet on Sunday (10/11). However, Northern Ireland have a resilience about them as a team and do not concede many goals. It will be a challenge for Poland to break them down but I feel that they will be able to go on and end Northern Ireland’s unbeaten run with a win (7/10 at bet365).